Monday, 30 August 2010

Yoshino, Soho/Mayfair

A quick shout out for Yoshino, secretively tucked away off the Piccadilly main drag.

The menu changes monthly. We tried the Yoshini Zen Yuki set meal for £9.80 – grilled crispy skinned mackerel (just watch out for the bones), 3 fresh tuna rolls, sashimi salad in wasabi miso dressing, crunchy green bean and sesame salad, sunomono (a thinly sliced salad of radishes marinated in rice vinegar), potato salad, pickles and home made miso soup. All were presented in 3 shiny, lacquer boxes lined up across the table. For £9.80, this was an absolute bargain. Alternatively, fried chicken or fried tuna are offered in place of the mackerel.

Colourful sushi and sashimi platters range from around £16 - £30 and we also witnessed some fantastic looking tempura dishes (ranging from £3.80 - £11.80).

If you work nearby, this would be a great option for the super cheap lunch time deals starting at around £5.80. Or they do take away.

The interior is a bit sterile upstairs, but full of happy customers, even on a Monday night. I prefer the ground floor sushi bar which has more character. Service is friendly and unobtrusive, and the ambience is unpretentious and casual.

Yoshino also has a store, Delicatessen Yoshino, which sells fresh sushi at 59 Shaftesbury Avenue (near Chinatown).

Thanks to Jen for the recommendation!

Yoshino, 3 Piccadilly Place, W1J OBD (Tel: 020 7287 6622)

Yoshino on Urbanspoon

Friday, 27 August 2010

STOLEN: London Supper Club, Notting Hill

Ok, so you all know what a supper club is by now. I have previously penned some thoughts on the concept here. The idea behind the Stolen Supper Club is this: its creators are inspired by some of the world's best chefs, they eat at the restaurant, they rummage through the cookbook. Then, they create an evening at a funky pad in Notting Hill, inspired by the experience, for the likes of you and me to sample at reasonable prices in relaxed and fun surrounds. They even offer BYO.

I was intrigued.

Stolen's supper clubs are held on Monday evenings, for up to 15 guests. Mia brings her bubbly personality and over 10 years of hospitality experience to the service part of the venture. Leandro cooks, and cooks well. I attended the "Oyster and Chop House" event this month, which was inspired by Mark Hix's restaurant and cook book - right down to the Hix napkins and wine. The suggested contribution was £30 (but this varies depending on the menu, as advertised in advance on Stolen's website).

We started in the garden, chatting to our fellow diners from around the world over a lovely glass or three of Hix Tonnix Quinta de la Rosa wine (Douro, Portugal, 2007) - a wine created by the winery in collaboration with Mark Hix and Mitch Tonks (and Tracy Emin for the label artwork).

Moving inside, we sat next to the modern kitchen under high ceilings with exposed beams, surrounded by white walls and brickwork with a trendy but casual feel.

Fresh from Billingsgate market, platters of oysters on ice and shredded seaweed (6 oysters each) were brought out to start - both natural and "Oyster Mary" style with a light Bloody Mary granita topping.

The main event was a gigantic ribeye with Chop House butter, bearnaise or green (mixed herb) sauce. Sourced from Jack O'Shea (as is Hix's steak), you can't say Stolen don't do their research. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, the steak was certainly generous and flavourful, but lacked some caramelisation given it was finished off in the oven. The steaks were accompanied by crunchy, fine straw potatoes and a mixed leaf salad.

We finished up with some potent sloe gin jelly shots, sorbet and cream.

This was a fun spirited, good value evening, particularly given the BYO policy, and wine sharing around the table. At Hix's Oyster & Chop House, the equivalent meal would have cost around £48.50 plus £27.50 for the bottle of Hix Tonnix wine, plus service.

The next Stolen Supper Club will be held on 13th of September - a "Game Evening". It's a particularly good option for West Londoners wishing to try their local supper club scene.

Stolen Supper Club, a leafy part of Notting Hill.... London

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Restaurant Sauterelle, Bank

Since I commute to work in Zone 4 West West Paradise each day, I'm not always completely au fait with the funky wine bars and hidden delights catering to the after work crowd in the city centre. You might think that's a huge, gaping hole in my repertoire, but let me assure you that I more than make up for it - if you need to know the weekday happy hours of any of the old man pubs of Zone 4 By The Highway, I'm your girl.

Restaurant Sauterelle is quietly situated on the mezzanine level of the Royal Exchange building. I must have passed it squadillions of times on the number 8 bus, never knowing what lies behind the grand old facade. Enter the doors and you'll find a reasonably glam little arcade with high ceilings, some upmarket retailers and, all importantly, the Royal Exchange Grand Cafe bar posited in the middle. It's a lively spot to join the after 5 crowd for a pre-dinner drink. So, I did just that.

Restaurant Sauterelle, overlooking the hoi poloi, is not a place I knew much about. But I've enjoyed having my eyes opened lately to some places, housing capable chefs, which seem to have fallen off the foodie radar. It turns out Sauterelle is worth keeping in mind, particularly for the city crowd.

Head Chef Robin Gill is Irish born, but has done in his time in French and Italian restaurants. The experience is evident in the technically skilled dishes coming out of the semi-open kitchen.

The dining room itself has all the airs and graces of quiet, slightly corporate fine dining. The city clientele sit in reasonably hushed surrounds under soaring archways and frescos, enjoying interesting, elegant French/Italian fare.

We tested out the summer menu - 4 courses for £28 including a glass of the fantastic English sparkling wine, Nyetimber.

To start, a San Marzano tomato gazpacho, dotted with fresh ricotta, slivers of courgette and basil. While nice enough, this wasn't a blazing start with the tomato being quite rich and saucy, rather than light and delicate - I think tomato based soups are one of the hardest things to get right to avoid a touch of the dreaded "tinned Heinz" flavour.

But then the smoked Glenarm salmon confit with beetroot textures, horseradish cream, hazelnut and dill salad was gorgeous - top quality, luscious salmon with an interesting balance of contrasting flavours.

Stealing from the a la carte menu, the cornish crab raviolo with cucumber, samphire, lemongrass and coriander (£13.90) was well executed if of subtle flavours.

My warm salad of crisp, slow cooked Devonshire lamb (so tender, and mellow in flavour), nuggety sweetbread, peas, borlotti beans, creamy Ratte potatoes and a caper and parsley sauce was also adept.

A chilled watermelon soup with Muscat de Rivesaltes, fresh mint, and a honey and dew sorbet, was interesting and refreshing. It's not something I would normally order (and I wasn't won over enough to order it again) but I'm sure you'll like this version if it's your kind of thing.

The vanilla panna cotta with English summer berries, sugared pine nuts and basil was gloriously wobbly and the full, sweet, creamy vanilla flavours made this a perfect end to a long meal.

Each dish was accompanied by Nyetimber sparkling English wine. We started with the 2005 - a lovely fruity, appley fizz - and later moved on to the superb 2001 - having more yeasty, brioche flavours balancing with the crisp apple. Fantastic wines.

While a la carte prices are at the upper end of  the scale (generally £18-24 for a main course), good value, lower cost options are available with the summer set menu (£28 for 4 courses and a glass of Nyetimer sparkling wine) and standard set menus (2 courses £19.50, 3 courses £22.50).

One to remember for accomplished food, in a city and suits atmosphere.

Restaurant Sauterelle, The Royal Exchange Building, Bank, London EC3V 3LR 
(Tel: 020 7618 2483)

Greedy Diva was a guest of Restaurant Sauterelle, along with other bloggers .

Sauterelle on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Polpetto, Soho

Polpetto is going to be lighting up the blog rolls over the next few weeks. While you may well yawn at the monotony, I can't resist chipping in with my 10 cents worth. If you've been, you'll understand.

Russell Norman opened Polpo, a Venetian style bacaro bar, in Soho around a year ago - I was immediately a fan. Polpetto is a smaller offshoot, following the same style, in teensy room above the likeable French House watering hole. I've given you the low down on Polpo already, but basically the approach of both restaurants is to offer a wide range of small plates of traditional Italian food - cicheti, crostino, pizzettas, plates of meat, fish and vegetables - for sharing or hogging all to oneself. Originally the plan for Polpetto was to mostly replicate Polpo's dishes, but in fact Polpetto's plates are generally different to those offered at it's big mama's tables.

Polpo's decor screams New York, and Polpetto's does too to a lesser extent. It's the exposed brick work, rustic mirrors, minimalist design. There's a patterned copper ceiling and big windows overlooking Dean Street. The bar area at the Polpo mothership, where the waiting hordes gather, gives it an extra buzz - but I was at an early evening time slot during Polpetto's soft opening on Saturday night, so it's too early to say if it will generate the same electric atmosphere. It well might - it's certainly already gained a passionate following, and will certainly be packed to the rafters in the weeks and months to come.

Over an Aperol and soda apertivo, a complimentary anchovy and chickpea crostino had a little bit too much of the sandwich shop tuna salad about it to really knock my socks off. I love anchovy, but it didn't appear to me here as a distinct flavour among the tahini and chickpea mix.

Our pea, mint, fennel and ricotta salad was gorgeous. Zingy and fresh this was an ode to beautifully contrasting textures and complimentary flavours. A highlight.

Another highlight - a generous portion of tender rare steak flank, sliced thickly, and smothered with a luscious white truffle cream and rocket (pictured top).

Oh, and then yet another highlight - the panzanella. A vibrant mix of red and yellow tomatoes, garlic, onion, basil, white wine vinegar, oil, garlic, crunchy chunks of toasted bread, garlic and a hint of garlic.

The soft shell crab with parmesan batter and fennel salad was decent enough but I wouldn't order it again - the crab was lovely but nothing special. I couldn't taste the parmesan in the batter and the fennel salad was a little lost in the lemony cream such that it lost much of the flavour and bite that I love about fennel.

However, all was exalted to another level again with the fabulous pigeon saltimbocca, pudgy, rare and bloody, wrapped in prosciutto and bedded in a creamy cushion of sublime white polenta.

Then, a ballsy glass of tiramisu and a dainty, mellow pannacotta served with blackberries and an elegantly tasty almond biscotti. Wonderously, belly laughingly good.

There are wines by the carafe and mini wine glasses (not the Polpo tumblers).

Polpetto opens officially tomorrow (Monday 23 August 2010). I was lucky enough to get through on the busy lines to secure some seats for the 50% off soft opening this weekend. Normally it might not be fair to review a place during its soft opening. But I love the Polpetto/Polpo concept, the passion behind it, and the casual, easy eating, quality food. When it's this good already, I'm happy to recommend it early on. Without a 50% discount on food our total bill would have been £32 per head including apertivo, wine and service. I rate it as good value, even if much of the food appears to be ready made for rolling straight out of the kitchen (eg. the desserts).

Just don't go along swept up too much in the anticipated hype that it's the best place in the universe and everything is perfect - if you can resist succumbing to that, I'm certain you won't be disappointed.

Polpetto, Above The French House, 49 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 5BG
(Tel: 020 7734 1969)

Polpetto on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 19 August 2010

What's happened to the FoodLovers Market Soho?

This was the question being bandied about last week at the sight of an apparently dwindling number of stalls at the FoodLovers Market Soho.

The market has been running on Rupert and Winnett Streets every Saturday since the 10th of July. Henrietta Green and Shane Holland, bringing their collective experience with involvement in Borough Market, FoodLovers Britain and the Slow Food markets on South Bank, were approached by the Westminster City Council to run a market which might strengthen the area as a destination for food lovers. More cheese, less sleaze... or something like that.

Set in the heart of Soho's red light district, the scene is gritty, but has character - often the site of urban fashion photography shoots, with the bulging g-strings of Prowler on one corner, the grand old Gielgud Theatre on the other, and an assortment of peep shows and "model" signs in between. You don't see many prams on Rupert Street. During the week, the Brewed Boy coffee van adds to the charm, and lunchtime stalls on the cobbled street sell Thai and Lebanese food to hungry office workers. Gelupo, Bocca Di Lupo, Polpo and now Polpetto are just around the corner.

The future looked bright during the first week of the FoodLovers market. There were farmers - selling meat, fruit and veg - who don't have stalls anywhere else in London. Bea's of Bloomsbury had a brightly coloured cake stall, there was a hog roast, bakery, cheeses (including Neal's Yard Dairy), apple cider, unpasteurised milk, butter and cream from Hook & Son, huge pots of confit beef and pot roasted chickens (from Madame Gautier), terrines, gorgeous summer berries and a steak and burger grill (from Happy Herefords & Tipsy Tamworths).

But last week, you could almost see the tumble weed blow by. Where has everyone gone? Cooeeee....

Last weekend, there were no butchers, no fruit and veg, no Bea's, no milk, no bakery, no cider, no cheese, no burgers - there was a cake stand (Outsider Tart selling American style cakes), a churros stand, the hog roast, an ice-cream stall and 1 or 2 others which barely registered.

Sources tell me prices to rent a space are high (or at least they were initially) - you'd have to sell a lot of panatas to make it worth your while. However, rates are apparently adjusted as the lie of the land becomes clear over time. And the organisers inform me that a few of the stallholders have dropped out for August only - they'll be back in September (including meat, fruit, veg stalls) along with a new fishmonger starting at the end of this month (hurray!).

There are also a whole range of special days planned for the market over the year, including "oysters and late summer fruits, berries and nuts" for 4 September, game on 2 October and Christmas markets over the December period.

Henrietta Green is quick to point out that no market is an overnight success, no matter how much time and money is spent on PR. The ability of the market to flourish will depend on word of mouth, and the support of customers and stall holders alike - both of which are still testing each other out at the moment.

I love food markets, and the thrill of jostling and foraging for new finds. And, of course, seeing how many times it's possible to get away with doing laps past the free cheese samples before the hair up/hair down/Groucho Marx disguises wear thin. I would love to see this market thrive right in the middle of Soho, an area which is fast becoming a better and better food destination. And I'm delighted to hear there are more and more stalls coming back on board over the next few weeks.

So what do we want to see at our central London markets?

I want good quality, British game and meats that inspire me to cook something new. I want a great cheese stall (preferably with lots of free tasters a la Borough). Some good Banh Mi and sweet Vietnamese coffee like you might find at Broadway Market would be a great addition to the Soho food scene. I want locally grown fruit and vegetables, still smudged with dirt, sold by people eager to tell you all about where it's come from. Someone should be filling the air with the smell of good quality steaks and burgers sizzling on a grill.

I want rolls bursting with roast pork and apple sauce. I want roast chickens. There's a real lack of quality fishmongers around Rupert St, so I'm glad someone is coming on board to plug that gap. And, while we're at it, a few nice oysters with a glass of sparkling wouldn't go astray. I want hot jam doughnuts like I can get at the Queen Vic Market in Melbourne and (since it's my wishlist) I'll take some South Melbourne Market dimmies too. I want interesting salads, maybe some Lebanese food, maybe some jerk - all to wrap up and scoff in the park around the corner. A great coffee stand is essential.

What do you want to see at your local food market? Will you be coming along for the ride at Rupert Street?

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Benito's Hat: Mexican Kitchen, Covent Garden

At last a burrito I can respect. 

The jaw locking pork burrito at Benito's Hat is a behemoth example of what a burrito should be. It is literally bursting with pile upon pile of tender, fragrant shreds of carnitas pork - braised slowly and simmered with lime juice, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, cumin and oregano. The balsamic may lack authenticity, but is a deliberate improvement beyond reproach since it adds a superb kick. It comes topped with mounds of black beans (slow cooked and flavoured with avocado leaves), coriander and lime rice, lettuce, grated Montery Jack, guacamole, sour cream and salsa - all somehow rammed into a soft tortilla. I can't believe what I'm seeing as it's being built. But I keep quiet and watch bemused as they somehow manage to wrap it all up. It costs £5.50 (plus 50p for the guacamole). Bargain.

The Peanut Gallery's chargrilled steak burrito is right up there with the pork. Marinated overnight in chipotle chilies, lime and spices the lean meat is supremely tender with an earthy, smoky flavour - he opts for the slow cooked pinto beans with paprika instead of the black beans (£6.00).

This is gutsy Mexican food. It tastes both fresh and interesting. And (tip to other burritos I've tried recently) it's not overloaded with refried beans to the point of saturation of all other flavours.

Benito's Hat opened its new outlet in Covent Garden on 16th July, an offshoot of its popular Goodge St restaurant. The decor in Covent Garden is different - quite stark and white, with splashes of green and red, it doesn't encourage lingering. It screams fast food (despite the careful, slow cooking involved). But chef Felipe Fuentes Cruz concedes this, and admits the team are already considering changes to soften some of the edges and encourage their patrons to linger with that extra margarita or dessert.

You get the idea they're flexible enough to make whatever changes are required to satisfy their customers - some Goodge St customers have commented that the food tastes different, which Felipe puts down to the different, more modern equipment being used in the new kitchen. If the new stuff doesn't work out, they'll revert back to the same equipment as in the original store. It seems to be working out to me...

Named after Benito Juarez, a former Mexican president with a penchant for a certain distinctive wide-brimmed hat, Benito's Hat is the enterprise of Ben Fordham (ex-lawyer who has honed his culinary skills in Mexico) and head chef Felipe (formerly of other London Mexican restaurants like Green & Red). Felipe, hailing from Puebla in Mexico, is happy to chat with patrons as he works the floor and the cash register, and his passion - devoid of any ego - is obvious. 

The aim here is to bring the vibrant flavours and colours of Mexico's rich culinary culture to Londoners who are over the bland Tex-Mex scene.

The flavours are simple and fresh. And, for once, the pork burrito tastes and smells distinctly different from the beef one. 

There are tacos, salads and soups as well. 

We start with a couple of margaritas - classic for me (£5) and watermelon for TPG (£6.00). Made with 100% Pure Blue Agave tequila (no mixers) they're excellent. 

We accompany them with some light and crispy tortilla chips with a terrific guacamole - chunky fresh avocado, with the zing of lime and the bite of summery tomatoes.

We also try some tacos with 2 types of chicken - Ben's chargrilled chicken breast, marinated overnight in chipotle chillies, cumin and cinnamon, and Felipe's braised chicken breast version cooked in a blend of achiote (the seeds are ground and used as a mildly flavoured colouring agent in Mexican cooking), tomato and guajillo chillies (£4 for two). They come in soft flour tortillas with the recommended lettuce, cheese and salsa (although you can add other toppings). Alone they would be a much smaller meal than the burritos, and together with a burrito, it's all way too much. But we battle on in the line of duty...

Felipe's braised chicken is particularly good (again, so tender) but the tacos are less interesting, less meaty - I'm afraid they don't compete with the magnificent burritos so I take a couple of bites and decide not to waste rapidly diminishing stomach space.

And then, although we can't believe we're doing it, we have dessert. By this point our chairs are creaking, on which grounds we steer away from heavier options like the tres leches cake and go for a ball of dulce de leche ice-cream, sprinkled with cinnamon and surrounded with a higgledy piggledy array of buneulos (strips of fried flour tortillas) liberally sprinkled in sugar and cinnamon (£3.50). Presentation could be improved, and while I didn't adore the bunuelos I devoured them in a way you wolf down the empty calories of a packet of Doritos after a big night on the town - in that wasteful, dirty, mindless sort of way. The ice-cream was lovely.

Benito's Hat is great value - you could easily get away with a meal and a couple of drinks for around £15 (or well under a tenner for a quick bite without alcohol).

The only real drawbacks are some confusion around the method of service - the idea is to order up at the counter and walk along selecting your toppings. Some customers were clearly a little befuddled about where to start queuing from, and even while things were quiet, there is a bit of a wait. This issue will probably only magnify as the queues start rolling in.

However, not only is it the first burrito I'll actually return for (once I've digested this one - it may take a while), but it's also inspired me to take heart that good Mexican fare in London may be worth looking for.

Benito's Hat Mexican Kitchen, 19 New Row, Covent Garden, London WC2N 4LA (Tel: 020 7240 5815)

The original Benito's Hat is located at 55 Goodge Street, Fitzrovia, London W1 4NB.

Greedy Diva was a guest of Benito's Hat.

Benito's Hat on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Dishoom, Covent Garden

Dishoom is the new "Bombay Cafe" receiving quite a lot of love in Covent Garden right now.

The concept is fresh and nostalgic all at once. The London incarnation is inspired by the grand old cafes of Mumbai, opened by Persian immigrants in the early 20th century. They which numbered in the hundreds by the 1960s but have since all but disappeared.

I love the big, brasserie style room immediately. It's all high ceilings, huge windows, marble topped tables, dark wood and walls cluttered with vintage posters, photos, newspaper clippings and mirrors. It's buzzy, friendly, and manages to retain its charm while clearly being positioned for a potential roll out.

There's no queue when we arrive early at 7.15pm on a Friday night and are informed (in the nicest possible way) we'll need to vacate in an hour and a half if anyone's waiting. Within half an hour there's a Busaba-like queue snailing down the street. The word is out.

And fair enough too. There's good stuff here.

A small pot of Pau Bhaji arrives first - mashed veg with hot buttered bread (£3.90). Having a touch of l'essence de baby food about it, it's a tad bland and monotonous. Not a flying start but "nice" enough. Surprisingly, this was one of the recommendations of our attentive waitress. (Potentially over-attentive service seems have to settled down since early reports.)

But things pick up from here with a series of fresh, lively and spicy plates that leave us happily full and smiling from the inside out.

The murgh malai is a generous serving of marinated, charcoal grilled chicken (£6.50). The spicing is mild but definite, and the knobbly chunks of chicken are nicely charred and delightfully succulent.

A plate of large, meaty grilled masala prawns is also appealing - with lime, tomato and fresh coriander (£8.20), the only problem is there's 5 to share between 2 of us which always results in an arm wrestle in our family.

Our lamb biryani is the best I've had in a long time - it comes in a clay pot, sealed in the traditional way with a ring of dough. It's aromatic and spicy, and the basmati rice is wonderfully moist but crispy around the edges. Its downfall is the slight toughness of the lamb, which had a lovely flavour but could have been more tender.

We watched our roomali roti (£1.70) being stretched and cooked over the hot dome in the open kitchen. It was lovely and light, and accompanied by an essential cooling serve of raita (yoghurt, fresh cucumber and mint, £1.90).

This was enough food to sink us - two "healthy eaters" - such that we even skipped dessert. But, there are a plethora of other interesting morsels to go back for - small and large plates (fish fingers, calamari, chilli cheese toast....), salads, roomali rolls, shorba (soups), grilled everythings (lamb chops, dill salmon tikka, paneer and mushroom...), chicken berry or vegetable biryanis, black daal, and a house meat or vegie curry of the day.

The tipples are equally enticing. I started with the house punch which was a fun mix of fruit juice, coconut, rum and Darjeeling tea (£4.90). The Peanut Gallery's Bombalada was a mix of pineapple, coconut, milk, rum, herbs and spice (£5.90). Both were highly enjoyable but a little light on the rum. I wonder if they do doubles...?

The Meantime Union dark beer (£3.90) was a great match with the food. The rose and cardamom lassi also sounds tempting (£3.20).

This is a happy place, with good quality, fresh food. It's not perfect - but I suppose no hectic "Bombay cafe" should be. It's reasonably priced, ringing in at £25 per head for us with drinks (plus service).

I'm itching to go back to try the breakfast menu - the traditional Bombay cafes never closed so this is a dawn til dusk type operation. I imagine it would be a superb place to sit back and read the paper over a sweet cup of chai and "the Full Bombay".

Sure, it's already popular, but you can't help but wish them well.

Dishoom, 12 Upper St Martin's Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9FB 

Open 8am-11pm Monday-Friday; 10am-11pm Saturday; 10am-10pm Sunday (no reservations)

Dishoom on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Yuforia, Soho

I first heard of the existence of Yuforia when The Peanut Gallery arrived home in a whirl of excitement jibbering frantically about an alleged new waffle place in Soho. For TPG, this is something akin to Katie Price discovering a whole new range of fake tanning products on her welcome mat.

As it turns out, Yuforia is more about the frozen yoghurt (that’s “froyo” to the Twitter generation) but they do some waffle action on the side.

So when I was invited to a gathering to try frozen yoghurt sundaes and froyo cocktails, I was happy to pop by to conduct some due diligence.

I may not be the typical froyo customer because I don’t care if it’s healthy. If I want healthy, I’ll have a peach. If it’s frozen and sweet, it has to compete with the best, creamiest gelato I can get my hands on – and to hell with the calories. But in case it interests you, dear readers, Yuforia’s froyo is stated to be 100% fat free, low calorie (70-100 calories in each) frozen yoghurt with no artificial ingredients and is made from British skimmed milk. And while it does not taste as creamy as a big, fatty gelato (it has a sharper, tangy bite), this is good frozen yoghurt, and tastes creamier than others I’ve tried – I prefer it to nearby Snog’s.

Yuforia's frozen yoghurt is apparently modelled on that by American brand, Pinkberry. There are 3 flavours – original, chocolate, and a special which changes regularly. You can top them with a fair range of accompaniments like berries, granola, nuts, marshmallows, Oreos or - go on - fudge.

But most of all, I like the fun, friendly vibe of the place. And the big, green wall covered in real leaves. Oh, and yes, TPG, they do waffles.

Yuforia, 38 Beak Street, Soho, London (the original store is in The Piazza, Covent Garden).

Yuforia on Urbanspoon

Greedy Diva attended this event as a guest of Yuforia.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Indigo at One Aldwych, Covent Garden

I'm not sure how I've missed the Lobby Bar at One Aldwych, but it's quite the glam place for a drink. Who knew? It certainly beats the pants off most hotel lobby bars. Soaring ceilings, huge windows, dark oak furnishings and a cocktail list to knock your socks off. Tables are probably spaced slightly too far apart to build up a huge buzz, but perhaps this contributes to the airy feel.

After a black lavender vodka martini (with fresh blackberries and blackberry liqueur - £10.50), The Peanut Gallery and I ambled up to Indigo, the mezzanine restaurant overlooking the Lobby Bar. This is the hotel's baseline restaurant. The setting is more subdued than the bar's, and quite stylish and comfortable if a little bland and hotellish. But it's busy, even on a Monday night.

The food here - all modern European - is excellent, but can be pricey (at least if you go for the a la carte menu).

We started with a chilled tomato consumme with fresh tomato, basil, Scottish langoustines, peas, broad beans and chives - summery, tangy, sweet and fresh - absolutely gorgeous (£6.50). This was one of the most memorable dishes of the evening and was recommended to us since it was part of a seasonal tomato based menu being promoted by Indigo's big brother restaurant, Axis, at the time (there's a Mushroom Menu coming up at Axis from 23rd September and a Game Menu from 11th November). The tomato consumme still seems to be on the regular menu.

After a bit of a mix up when my scallops arrived looking rather like squid, the dish was quickly replaced, and my scallops showed up looking much more to plan. With broad beans, pea puree, pea shoots and shavings of truffle (£13.50) everything was fresh and executed well. The summer truffles were mild enough not to overpower the rest of the dish. It's difficult lately to find a scallop without a pea puree lurking nearby (and the pairing was a constant theme of Master Chef), but this was a fine version of the tried and tested combination.

My lamb with sweetbreads and kohlrabi was rich and decadent - the sort of dish that (sweetbreads aside) I really lap up (£22.50).

TPG enjoyed his roasted breast and confit leg of quail, with a quail scotch egg, cherry compote, cherries and young almonds (£12.50). Ok, so there's a glass plate and it looks a little fru fru, but there were some great flavours here and all was perfectly well executed. His steak with cherry tomatoes and flat mushrooms was less exciting but I seem to recall there was not much left on his plate in the end.

To dessert... My raspberry and lemon curd cheesecake had a thin biscuit on top of a big daub of gooey cheesecake mix with raspberries and circles of jelly on top. Loved it - even more so than TPG's fancy looking Eton mess. The meringue was slightly too chewy, but came backed up with good jelly, cream, strawberry sorbet, basil and strawberry sauce.

We left full and happy.

Pricing may be the main stalling point for some. Although there are a couple of starters for under a tenner, they're mostly around the £12 mark. To be fair, our main dishes were at the pricier end of the spectrum and there are plenty of options within the £15-£20 bracket. Nonetheless, if these prices make you baulk, then the fixed price menus for pre and post-theatre (it's handily located for the theatre district) would be a clever way to sample the fare (2 courses £16.75 and 3 courses £19.75). They also do breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea.

Just don't forget to have a cocktail downstairs first (yes, yes, even if you go for breakfast).
Indigo at One Aldwych, 1 Aldwych, Covent Garden, London WC2B4 (tel: 020 7300 0400)

I dined at Indigo as a guest of the restaurant. The views expressed here are, as always, an honest account of my thoughts.

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